The Alchemist, in search of the Philosopher's Stone. Painting by Joseph Wright, 1771.

Life Energy Fundamentals

By the shift of the life force from being used to being the user, it became much less of a means to accomplish vitality and longevity, something still craved by each individual - especially those most privileged by the excess appearing in agrarian society. When the life force was in divine hands, something else was needed for people who wanted more than their share.

       In China of the centuries around the beginning of our Christian era, alchemy was developed in the pursuit of potions that would give longevity to the ones who could afford them. In particular, there were some Chinese emperors spending vast amounts of the royal fortune on men who claimed to know the recipe. The potions included some heavy metals, so they tended to shorten life rather than prolong it.

       In Europe, similar pursuits were made by alchemists of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance (see the image on the following page). They preferred to work with gold and other precious substances, so whatever potions they mixed were solely for the well to do. They also saw this work as a method to reach an individual refinement, which would probably include longevity but focused more on personal transcendence.

       The life force was not the focus of such efforts, at least not the one of the beliefs of the time, such as the Holy Spirit of Christianity. That was God's instrument, and He had decided on a limited life span for humans, so they had to find other means. Their methods could be categorized as magic - a science of the impalpable, allowing for powers independent of those in nature.

       Magic was a way of trying to reclaim control of the life force.

       For that purpose the alchemists needed to investigate its nature, as well as that of surrounding circumstances of significance. Their method was scientific enough, with theories, trial and error, and so on. Of course, their perspective, or paradigm if you will, was quite mystical, and in line with the fundament of Christian cosmology.

       So, they searched principles rather than manifestations, and imponderabilia, things of a fleeing and obscure nature, rather than the known materials around them. They sought to manipulate the world by finding the hidden laws and workings of it, as if getting to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, behind God's back.

       Had they not done their research in fields where many rulers were eager to get results, they would surely have been banned by the Church and burned at the stake as heretics. But rulers longed for longevity.

       Through the occult sciences, ideas of the life force moved around quite a bit. The alchemists speculated anew about its nature and workings, eager to find new ways to describe and understand it. They left the basics of the mind's will and the bodily movements far behind, as well as the orderly view otherwise fondled by agricultural society. In a way, they stepped back into chaos, the dark unknown, fully prepared to return with something never before imagined.

       This process is still at work in today's society, although the terminology and the objects of research have changed.


  1. Introduction

  2. Homo rudis

  3. Prime mover

  4. Air

  5. Bodily fluids

  6. Survival

  7. The dead

  8. Spirits

  9. Hell

  10. Change

  11. Agricultural order

  12. A demanding spirit

  13. Magic

  14. The Scientific Revolution

  15. Mechanical man

  16. Subversive spirits

  17. Alien forces

  18. Future speculations

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My Other Websites

Qi Energy Exercises

The ancient Chinese life energy qi (chi) explained and how to exercise it.

Creation Myths

Creation stories from around the world, and the ancient cosmology they reveal.

Cosmos of the Ancients

What the Greek philosophers believed about the cosmos, their religion and their gods.


Taoism, the ancient Chinese philosophy of life explained. Also, the complete Tao Te Ching online.

My Life Energy Books

Life Energy Encyclopedia. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Life Energy Encyclopedia

Qi, prana, spirit, ruach, pneuma, and many other life forces around the world explained and compared. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

QI - increase your life energy. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Qi - Increase your life energy

The life energy qi (also chi or ki) explained, with several very easy exercises to awaken, increase, and use it. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

My Other Books

Cosmos of the Ancients. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Cosmos of the Ancients

The Greek philosophers and what they thought about cosmology, myth, and the gods. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

Tao Te Ching - The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Te Ching

The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. The great Taoist classic, translated and extensively commented chapter by chapter. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

Sunday Brunch with the World Maker. Novel by Stefan Stenudd. Sunday Brunch with the World Maker

Fiction. A brunch conversation slips into the mysterious, soon to burst beyond the realm of possibility. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

Stefan Stenudd, Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction. Stefan Stenudd

About me

I'm a Swedish author and historian of ideas, researching the thought patterns in creation myths. I've also written books about Taoism, the Tarot, and life force concepts around the world. Click the image to get to my personal website.